The starting point for mental health support in the workplace is to enable employees to cope on their own, and for that reason RedArc believes that employers need to ensure that the focus for promoting mental wellbeing is on self-care.
Put simply, ‘self-care’ is the ability to engage in activities and habits that deliberately maintain or enhance good mental health in order to build self-confidence, resilience, and enable individuals to manage future issues themselves.
As well as the more traditional avenues of counselling, there are also relatively simple and inexpensive activities that an employer can put in place to demonstrate that they are prepared to support staff both in principle and in practice:
• Ecotherapies focused on being outside (walking, gardening, cycling);
• Higher impact exercise that stimulates mood-enhancing endorphins (HIIT training, running, team sports),
• Other activities that are associated with slowing down the world (mindfulness, meditation yoga, reading, turning off tech)
In addition to the provision of activities such as gym memberships, mental health apps and employee assistance programmes (many of which may be available as added-value tools via insurances) employers could also consider the physical layout of their premises and include areas such as reading rooms, work gardens and chill-out zones. More important than the specific activities and space however, is the ability for employers to create an open environment where they actively encourage guilt-free participation in self-care.
Ali Simmons, senior mental health nurse adviser for RedArc Nurses says: “It’s been shown that self-care helps people reverse their mild to moderate mental health condition completely. By understanding what helped them before and making a plan to repeat that behaviour, and regularly practice techniques that have previously worked, they can return to a stronger position.”
Professional support focuses on self-care
Employers are right to offer third-party professional support for mental health issues when an individual requires it, but even in these circumstances it’s important that it’s made clear to employees that there are boundaries to the support. For example, NHS and private medical best-practice guidelines put a limit on the number of counselling sessions that should be prescribed at one time. Rather than this being a cost- or time-saving exercise it’s because professionals understand the need to remove dependences, and to help guide an employee towards coping on their own.
If employees know there’s support they get better quicker
In RedArc’s experience, when staff feel they work in a supportive environment, they get better quicker. The opposite is also true that where employees don’t offer or see support, they can feel abandoned or isolated and they don’t recover as quickly.
Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc Nurses said: “People all react differently, and what challenges one person’s mental health will be water off a duck’s back for another. What’s important is that employers have self-care support in place so that employees can understand which activities and tools help them both recover from illness and maintain good long-term mental health. When professional support is provided, it’s important that self-care is seen as the end-goal, and the way forward in maintaining positive mental wellbeing.”